We have an unusual 1977 brick ranch home with a deep courtyard. We love it. We hate it. There is always deep shade on the left side and bright, hot sunshine on the right. Planting flowers over the past 30 years has been a huge learning experience. And, I have painted the dirty-looking sidewalk twice to clean and lighten it up. You can see that didn’t last long. Ugh!

Then, a flash of brilliance! Spray our little chairs and tables black and add them to the sidewalk. It was better, but not good enough. Another flash. Add pea gravel on top of the messy sidewalk to brighten up even more, and add texture.

After three trips to Lowe’s, voila! So much lighter, brighter, and more inviting.

If only I could get rid of the nasty yellow pollen falling on my nicely painted black pieces. Oh well, spring in North Carolina.

Last fall we realized that these window boxes on the front left wing of the house were just lost among the huge arbor vitae. Steve took them down and they were headed immediately to Goodwill. Until I realized that we could add them to the courtyard windows and add plants that love sun. Perfect. It’s the small things that make us happy.

Years ago for a blog post I painted our front doors this chartreuse green color. The door is so far from the street, it gets lost and I decided exaggerated was in order. When I first painted it, I had second thoughts about the dramatic look, but I always give myself time to let a change grow on me. Now we love it.

For the holidays we got another brilliant idea – to string lights across the courtyard to brighten it up and get festive. We loved the look so much, they stayed, and are lit nightly.

Our gigantic hostess are beginning to peek above the pine straw on the shady left side of the courtyard, and will soon look like this!

And the hot-weather blooms in the teal pots on the bright right steps will look like this.

And Gracie Lee will be watching for birds and the shiny green lizard that skitters across the porch to the planters.


  1. Add patio lights.
  2. Bring in lots of pea gravel (we used 25 bags).
  3. Add some seating and tables for a book and some wine.
  4. Attach some window boxes and add flower pots fulled with blooms.
  5. Paint the door a bright, attention-getting color.

What projects are you doing as summer approaches?

I’ve been painting this round glass table topper in the studio. Click to get the tutorial!

3 thoughts on “How We Brightened Up Our Front Courtyard

  1. Looks beautiful!!….and I love the door color! Bravo to you for painting something an unusual color. So, my question is….did you cover the sidewalk with pea gravel? I think we all have one of those concrete sidewalks that need some TLC.

  2. I love your courtyard and that crazy green door! Now I’m looking around for a way to add lights to my house.

  3. What a beautiful job and lots of creative ideas. We have pea gravel at our lake house at the bottom of the stairs from the deck and it’s hard to walk on, it seems to keep shifting under our feet. We added large pavers and used the pea gravel in the spaces and that worked much better. Love that you have sun plants and shade plants as the courtyard creates a mini environment for both. Great way to improve a difficult area!

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